Community celebrates with new hospital owners
“Excitement” and “historic”were the words of the day Friday as Duke LifePoint Hospitals rolled out the welcome mat at Haywood Regional Medical Center for community leaders.
A reception for key government officials, hospital leaders and other community members included addresses by the both Duke and LifePoint executives, Richard Grogan, the hospital’s interim chief executive officer, and Maurice Phillips, the vice-chairman of the hospital’s board of commissioners.
All spoke of their enthusiasm for the partnership that began Aug. 1.
Grogan, who is delighted with his temporary home in Haywood in the mountain area above Lake Junaluska, said what has impressed him most since arriving is how happy everybody is to have Duke LifePoint as the new owners.
Grogan will be at the helm of Haywood Regional as the company conducts a nationwide search for a permanent CEO.
The well-thought-out plan developed by Haywood Regional employees to address hospital and community needs is a good one, Grogan said.
“Now they will have the resources to implement it,” he said.
The first items likely to be tackled are ones that may attract little notice — things like fixing the roof, updating equipment and taking care of basic needs at the facility. The add-ons will come later.
The order of what happens when, said Jeff Seraphine, LifePoint Hospitals’ eastern group president, will unfold according to a strategic plan that is now being updated.
“It is so good to be on this side of the finish line,” said Seraphine, who has spent considerable time in the community during the lengthy sale process.
Each speaker addressed the fire that took out the hospital electric system, led to an evacuation and left the facility closed for three weeks this summer.
“The fire crisis was an amazing event,” said Dr. Harry Phillips, chief medical officer at Duke Medicine. “The way your team pulled together is the very reason we see you as wonderful partners.”
The first four patients who came to the hospital for emergency treatment has extremely serious health issues, ones that could have been deadly if there was a delay, he explained.
“Your team saved lives that night,” he said.
Bill Carpenter, chairman and CEO of LifePoint Hospitals, said he has never felt so welcomed as he was at Haywood. He called the new partnership a historic one in line with the future of health care in the nation.
Carpenter said he realizes transitions can be hard, and promised there would be good communications. He also addressed the recent hospital fire.
“The way your staff and the community rose to the occasion defines who you are and says to me that whatever comes along, you can handle it.”
Joan Barnes, who is a member of the hospital foundation that will soon have a new name and purpose since the forprofit hospital cannot accept charitable donations, praised those who made the day’s celebration possible.
“Duke LifePoint and Haywood Regional Medical Center have done their part,” she said. “Now it is up to the community to support its hospital. That is so important. They can do everything but can’t make people come in through the door.”
Marty Stamey, whose first job at the hospital as an orderly at age 15, and is now the director of plant operations at the facility, said the sale is a historic step for the county.
Robin Minnick, a bereavement specialist at the hospital’s inpatient hospice unit, called the sale very positive.
“Employees are very hopeful,” she said. “This was so needed and it has absolutely changed the energy levels here.”
Ron Leatherwood, a contractor who has worked at the hospital and is the former board chairman for the Haywood County Chamber of Commerce, said the sale is a way to maintain a community hospital, something critical to the community.
He said Duke LifePoint will bring world-class medicine and cutting-edge education/training techniques to Haywood.